By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Final, 21-13 Patriots: The Chargers made some progress down the field, and they faced a third-and-10 with 21 seconds left with the ball at the New England 44.
Rivers completed to Benjamin streaking shallow across the field, and the receiver was able to slip the tackle attempt of Jordan Richards to turn it into an eight-yard gain and get out of bounds.
On fourth-and-2 with 14 seconds left, Rivers took a shotgun snap and his receivers had no idea what to do. Yet he was able to compete a pass over the middle to his running back Ekeler, and they somehow rushed to the line to spike the ball with less than a second left.
On the final play of regulation from the 23-yard line, Rivers took a shotgun snap. The Patriots had eight guys defending the goal line. Rivers threw to nobody in particular, and Jonathan Jones picked it off to seal the win.
That was a close one. But the Patriots are winners, heading into their bye week at 6-2.
Fourth quarter, 1:08, 21-13 Patriots: Two short runs allowed the Patriots to drain the clock down to 1:12. Gostkowski came on to kick the 26-yarder, and it was good.
The Chargers will get the ball with a little over a minute left, with no timeouts, needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion. They have a chance. A small chance, but a chance.
Fourth quarter, 2:00, 18-13 Patriots: Life was going to be tough for the Patriots, facing a third-and-5 at the L.A. 20-yard line. But Bosa got anxious and jumped offside, drawing a neutral zone infraction penalty. Brady made the QB sneak to convert on third-and-inches to help really bleed this clock dry.
It’ll be second-and-9 coming out of the two-minute warning.
Fourth quarter, 3:21, 18-13 Patriots: The Patriots did what they had to do, but they don’t feel great with Chris Hogan lying on the turf in great pain.
Lewis opened the drive with a 10-yard run up the middle, plus another 15 yards for a facemask on L.A. Following a clipping penalty on Thuney (he fell down into a D lineman), Brady threw a perfect pass to Gronkowski for a gain of 26 yards. It looked easy. It assuredly was not.
After a short run, L.A. Called its first timeout. Brady then threw over the middle to Hogan, who took a heavy hit from Hayes Pullard. Hogan’s nursing some injured ribs, so him being stuck on the turf isn’t ideal. He’s a critical member of the offense.
Pullard himself got hurt on the play too.
Fourth quarter, 4:41, 18-13 Patriots: The Chargers picked up one first down but ended up having to punt, after a Rivers pass was tipped on third-and-8, leading to an incompletion. Deatrich Wise pressured Rivers up the middle, and I’m not entirely sure who got a hand on the ball.
But after the punt, the Patriots take over at their own 34 with less than five minutes to drain the clock to win the gmae.
Fourth quarter, 7:05, 18-13 Patriots: The Chargers have life. Despite a 19-yard completion to Hogan to start the drive, the Patriots couldn’t make any headway down the field. Lewis ran for four yards, followed by an incompletion and a ball batted down at the line by Philon on third down.
The Chargers got flagged for holding and block in the back on the fair catch of the punt (always a dubious thing to do), setting up the Chargers at their own 9-yard line.
Fourth quarter, 8:30, 18-14 Patriots: A questionable PI on Bademosi gave the Chargers 30 yards to start the drive. Three plays later, Rivers threw to Benjamin in the back right corner of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. Malcolm Butler got beat.
And just like that, a Chargers team that struggled to move the ball all day marched down the field in short order to get into the end zone.
Three plays, 67 yards, 1:06. And we’ve got a football game.
The two-point conversion was well-defended, with Rivers throwing incomplete to Gates. But it’s now a five-point game. Patriots offense has work to do.
Fourth quarter, 9:36, 18-7 Patriots: Another efficient if not overwhelming drive for the Patriots ends with yet another 43-yard field goal attempt for Gostkowski. And it ends with yet another Gostkowski miss.
Chargers are still alive, though they’ll need to actually show a pulse on this drive to make things interesting.
End of third quarter, 18-7 Patriots: New England is moving the ball as the third quarter comes to a close. Hogan did a good job to get open on a deep out, and Brady delivered a perfect strike for 15 yards on a third-and-10. Gillislee then ran for nine yards and then picked up the first down on the next play.
When the fourth quarter begins, it’ll be second-and-10 from the New England 45-yard line. A score here basically puts the game out of reach for the Chargers, who have been a mess offensively.
Third quarter, 2:26, 18-7 Patriots: Once again, the Chargers kill their own positive drive by shooting themselves in the foot. This one took a touchdown off the board.
Now, if not for the OPI committed by Tyrell Williams, then Travis Benjamin probably wouldn’t have had an entire football field to run free for a 41-yard touchdown. But that’s what happened, and it was an easy call to make.
The penalty set up the Chargers with a third-and-13 near midfield. Rivers was rushed and threw up a back-foot prayer, and it somehow hit Tyrell Williams in the hands. But as he took a couple of hits, Williams couldn’t hold on to the ball. Another Chargers punt.
Credit to the Patriots’ defense for getting off the field, but the Chargers aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders today.
Third quarter, 5:25, 18-7 Patriots: James White is a valuable, valuable man.
On third-and-10 from the NE 23, White left the backfield, took a pass from Brady, and scampered for a gain of 11.
After Hogan helped move the ball upfield with a 19-yard gain on a post pattern, the Patriots faced a third-and-2. White waited patiently for the back-foot throw from Brady to get to him. As soon as the ball got to him, so did safety Tre Boston, who hammered White. But White held on for a gain of 12 yards and a new set of downs.
Brady ended up taking a hit after scrambling for no gain on a second-and-13 and then throwing incomplete on third down to Gronkowski (looked from here like Gronkowski might not have been sure if the pass was intended for him?), bringing on the field goal unit. This time, Gostkowski banged home the 43-yarder, making the miss a thing of the past.
Third quarter, 10:52, 15-7 Patriots: The Chargers had a decent drive but shot themselves in the foot one too many times.
The first came when Williams caught a ball inside the 5, but not before he ran out of bounds. The illegal touching penalty negated the 40-yard reception. Later on second-and-11, Rivers scrambled while getting flushed from the pocket, and he just dropped the football. He recovered it but not before losing 20 yards.
Rivers chucked up a deep prayer to a quintuply covered Mike Williams. It went incomplete. The Chargers had to punt. Huge opportunity missed.
Amendola returned the punt 12 yards out to the 23-yard line.
Third quarter, 14:28, 15-7 Patriots: Patriots offense was a bit out of sorts after that huge return, and they failed to gain a yard. Then Gostkowski missed a 43-yard field goal wide left. The big return went for naught.
Third quarter, 14:46, 15-7 Patriots: You just don’t want to be offside on a kickoff. You don’t.
The Chargers were offside, prompting a rekick. Lewis took it from deep in his own territory and found a seam to break it 66 yards up the right sideline.
Another bad L.A. mistake.
Halftime, 15-7 Patriots: The Chargers went with a short pass to run out the clock and head to the locker room.
Brady: 19-for-26 (73.1%), 191 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rivers: 4-for-5 (80%), 62 TDs, 0 TD, 0 INT
Burkhead: 4 carries, 15 yards
Gordon: 8 carries, 113 yards, TD
Burkhead: 4 receptions, 48 yards
Gronkowski: 2 receptions, 18 yards, TD
White: 3 receptions, 62 yards
Williams: 1 reception, 24 yards
Gates: 1 reception, 16 yards
Second quarter, :20, 15-7 Patriots: Well, you can never tell the Patriots offense they should be conservative. They’re just too good.
A 13-yard completion to Jacob Holllister followed by a 16-yad reception by Gronkowski in the same right seam started the drive off, and the Patriots were thirsting for the end zone. A 17-yard PI penalty on L.A. (a pretty bogus penalty) helped too.
They ended up going 73 yards, and Gostkowski booted a 36-yard field goal to stretch the lead to 15-7.
Brady had the play of the game on that drive, when he danced around the pocket as Bosa swarmed, waiting patiently and then delivering a perfect strike to White, in stride, for a gain of 25 yards to get them into field goal range. What a play.
Second quarter, 2:00, 12-7 Patriots: Rivers threw over the middle for 24 yards to Tyrell Williams on first down, but the defense stiffened, leading to a third-and-2. Rivers threw to Williams again, and with the Chargers getting away with OPI, the receiver fell to the turf and so did the ball.
A great punt by Kaser gives the Patriots the ball at their own 9-yard line. The key for the Patriots will be to drain the clock. A 91-yard drive here is a lot of work. They could do it, but if they have to punt from their own end zone without draining clock, they risk giving free points to L.A. before halftime.
Second quarter, 4:06, 12-7 Patriots: Mike Gillislee converted on a fourth-and-1 run to keep the drive moving, and Rex Burkhead remained immense. But the drive eventually stalled on the Chargers’ 6-yard line, with Brady throwing out the back of the end zone on third down. Gostkowski made the short field goal, and the Patriots turned that safety possession into three free points. Not ideal but not the worst thing.
And so we’ve got a weird 12-7 score.
Brady missed an open Hogan on a flea flicker play on that drive, instead throwing to a double covered Cooks for a deep incompletion. He’s at 16-for-21 for 137 yards and a touchdown. Burkhead has 48 receiving yards and 15 rushing yards.
With the Patriots receiving to start the second half, they’ll really want a stop here to keep the score where it is.
Second quarter, 9:09, 9-7 Patriots: Joey Bosa has made his first impact play of the game, sacking Brady for a nine-yard loss on second-and-5. Brady chucked it deeeeeeep to Hogan on third-and-14, but it was broken up and well-covered by Hayward.
It was a wonderful play for the Chargers, leading to a punt. However, Travis Benjamin muffed the punt near the end zone and tried to overcompensate by running back through the end zone. That was a bad idea. A very bad idea. He was swarmed while stuck in the end zone, leading to a safety.
That was really, really bad football by Travis Benjamin. Such things tend to happen to opponents in Foxboro, for whatever reason.
Pats lead and they’re getting the ball back with decent field position.
Second quarter, 12:39, 7-7: Keenan Allen committed an obvious OPI on the first snap, moving the Chargers into a first-and-17 situation from inside their own 10-yard line. On third-and-2, Branden Oliver took a direct snap and ran to the right side. Elandon Roberts managed to weave through the traffic to dive at Oliver’s ankles, taking him down a yard shy of the first down.
Danny Amendola made a nice little 16-yard return, but a block in the back negates it all. Pats start at their own 12-yard line instead of the 36.
Second quarter, 14:56, 7-7: You know, Rob Gronkowski may be the greatest red zone threat in the league. But the Chargers couldn’t get a man on him, and as a result he has one of the easiest touchdowns of his life.
The Patriots just ran a couple of crossing patterns, with Dwayne Allen crossing before Gronkowski. The traffic jam allowed Gronkowski to spring free in the open prairie, and Brady lobbed him a 2-yard TD pass.
Brady is now 9-for-11 for 67 yards and the touchdown. He’s completed passes to six different receivers.
End of first quarter, 7-0 Chargers: The Patriots are having themselves a drive. They’ve moved the ball 70 yards thus far, and they’ll have a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line to begin the second quarter.
They converted a third-and-11, thanks to a nifty juke in the open field by James White to turn it into a 27-yard gain. They moved the chains again by snapping the ball with 12 Chargers on the field on a third-and-4. They converted a third-and-3 with Brady nimbly navigating the pocket to eventually find Amendola. And they just converted a third-and-4 from the 7-yard line, with Hogan running directly to the 2-yard line, turning around, and making a catch.
Great third-down execution by the Patriots has them knocking on the door.
First quarter, 6:15, 7-0 Chargers: The Patriots’ run defense looked good last week. They’re off to a tough start this week.
Melvin Gordon just bounced to the right side, waited for a hole top open up, and then he was gone. Boom, up the right sideline, untouched for 88 yards. Butler almost tracked him down at the goal line, but he couldn’t get there.
And Gillette Stadium is quiet.
First quarter, 7:08, 0-0: Not a great opening drive for Josh McDaniels’ offense. Lewis got stuffed on first down, Brady’s quick pass to Cooks on second down went for a two-yard loss, and then James White was trucked by Tre Boston two yards shy of the sticks on a misdirection screen pass on third-and-12.
The punt hit a Charger but stuck to him like Velcro. Chargers take over at their own 12. A light rain has begun to fall.
First quarter, 8:48, 0-0: The Chargers were having themselves a nice little drive going. Then, Michael Schofield committed a false start (thanks to a line shift by Wise and Butler), Melvin Gordon lost two yards, and Antonio Gates caught a pass a yard shy of the sticks on third-and-17. The Chargers went for the field goal, but Novak’s kick was just a touch wide and perhaps a little short.
Patriots take over with primo field position at their own 41-yard line.
First quarter, 14:55, 0-0: Davis took the opening kick and was popped at his own 20-yard line.
1 p.m.: The Chargers called tails, the coin flipped heads. The Patriots elected to defer. Chargers start out with the football.
11:40 a.m.: Good late morning/early afternoon from a gray Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots and Chargers will face off in some real football weather this afternoon.
When they do kick off, Stephon Gilmore won’t be involved. The cornerback appeared to be ready to make his return from a concussion, but apparently he’s not quite there. He’s inactive, missing his third straight game.
Here’s the rest of the Patriots’ inactive list:
Cole Croston, OL
Geneo Grissom, DE
Dont’a Hightower, LB
Malcom Brown, DT
Stephon Gilmore, CB
Cameron Fleming, T
Eric Rowe, CB
Expect a heavy dose of handoffs for the Patriots today, as it will not only work to gain yards and score points, but also limit LA’s offensive opportunities.
Speaking of the Chargers, here are their inactives:
QB Cardale Jones
WR Geremy Davis
RB Andre Williams
T Tyler Marz
T Joe Barksdale
TE Sean Culkin
DE Jerry Attaochu
The game kicks off at 1 p.m., and it ought to be a pretty good one. Follow along for live updates and analysis all afternoon from Gillette Stadium.